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on 3 March 2002
Firstly, before launching yourself into this excellent book please take the time to read the introduction by Dennis Showalter as it will help explain the style of writing to be found in this book. The book was originally written for the survivors of Bidermann's regiment and division, not for the general public. Bearing this in mind you will have a better understanding and feeling for the author's account of his experience of fighting on the Eastern Front during WW2. At times you might find the narrative old fashioned and even cliched but this is definitely not the case, it has to be taken in context of when and why this book was first written.
This is a great story, on par if not better than Guy Sajer's 'Forgotten Soldier'. This is a combination of a combat history of the 132nd Infantry Division and the author's role and experiences in the fighting on the Eastern Front. The author, Gottlob Herbert Bidermann, won two Iron Crosses, the Crimea Shield, the Close Combat Badge, the German Cross in Gold, the Gold Wound Badge (wounded five times), the Honour Roll Clasp and the Tank Destruction Badge. What is remarkable is that the author survived five years of combat on the Russian Front fighting in Crimea, Leningrad and later in the Courland Pocket. I found his stories about his early years fighting with an anti-tank section using the Pak 37 "doorknocker" very interesting, I had always believed these weapons to be next to useless on the Russian Front however I was surprised.
You can trace the change in the author from a novice who still cared about human beings, even his enemy to one whom has been brutalised by warfare to a point past indifference to death and destruction. I have taken the liberty to include below a short section of the text from the first chapter to give you an idea of the author's style of writing:
"The NCO was grasping one of the wheels of the Maxim carriage, his sightless eyes peering forward at the ammunition belt where it fed into the chamber of the weapon. Another held his rifle clenched in cold fists, his head resting against the ground as if asleep, the olive-colored helmet secured tightly under his chin.
Hartmann slipped past me and slowly approached two other figures lying closely together, side by side. One of the figures had draped an arm across the other in a last embrace, as if attempting to comfort a dying comrade. As Hartmann neared, a cloud of flies rose in protest, breaking the deadly silence and I moved forward to join him in surveying the ghastly scene.
Moving silently among the carnage, Hartmann suddenly turned and slipped past me without speaking, heading in the direction from which we had come. Carefully avoiding the eyes of the dead, I quickly followed him.
In this abode of death, only the trees, still and quiet, appeared to be survivors and witnesses to the struggle that had occurred, hidden within this wooded glade".
I found this book to be a very fascinating account of the fighting conducted on the Eastern Front from the perspective of a young German soldier. It offers some very interesting insights into combat and its affect on men who in the end just tried to survive against immense odds. There is a number of absorbing black and white photographs supplied from private sources that give the book a human touch. The only real problem that readers may find with this book is the lack of maps detailing the movements and combats of the 132nd Infantry Division. Overall this is the sort of book that should be in the library of every serious reader or student of the war on the Russian Front during World War Two.
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on 17 October 2001
German war memoirs are not as numerous as those by allied soldiers,therefore any book by an axis soldier is worth reading.The novelty factor alone makes them interesting, but if anyone has a serious interest in military history then a book such as this will prove fascinating.German memoirs tend not to be as readable as others due to the translation and also as they tend not to put you in the thick of action.(no muck & bullets)
Examples of this would be the works of H Guderian and H von Luck.This book is however more like 'Grenadiers' by K Meyer (a must buy!)which although not as graphic as the works of former 'screaming eagle' D Burgett still convey the real life war experience of a common Landser.
The reader will be astonished at the amount of combat the average german soldier saw,also one can get a real insight into the mind of a wehrmact soldier,the tactics and skills of the german forces and also a different perspective on the german soldiers relationship with the soviet peoples they conquored.
It would be a bargain at full price,at the discounted rate you can't not buy it.
If you only buy one german memoir and don't want to spend as much as 'Grenadiers' then pop this one in your basket.
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on 17 May 2003
This book is a must-read for everyone, interested in the war or not. It shows the German experience of the war, something I feel we in Britain do not give any thought to. In comparison to Guy Sajer's book, i think this comes a close second as because it was written for the survivors of the unit, there is a lot of regimental level description and not so much personal experience. One slight gripe I have is that the map was not at all useful with many places missing. This is only a slight problem with an altogether excellent book!
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Gottlob Biderman first hand account of Germany's Russian war is a riveting account of the ordinary Wehrmacht soldier. Gottlob Biderman served with the 132nd Infantry Division and saw action from the Crimea to Kurland and then into captivity in the Russian camps, the fact that he survived is an achievement to be able to relate his experiences in such detail is a triumph. The amount of combat experience Gottlob Biderman experienced on the eastern front allows him to give impressive insight into the deadly killing zone that War in Russian became. But through all this the comradeship between the soldiers comes to the fore, for them in this life and death struggle they leaned on each other. They tended there wounded and buried the dead and moved forward to the next encounter knowing that eventually they would meet at the end of there journey. Compelling reading.
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on 25 January 2002
this book follows G.Bidermann from june 41,to the end of the war and beyound.He starts in jubilant mood in the belief he and his comrades are on a crusade,but as the war goes and casualties mount.thoughts change from we will win to we must win,and then to a realisation that all is lost and now they fight for there own survival. a great read.
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on 22 August 2008
I have to disagree with previous reviews, I found this book a chore to read and nothing like the other dozen I have read such as The Forgotten Soldier or most recently, Blood Red Snow.

I prefer books written in the style of those that concentrate on their experiences and of those in a foxhole around them. In Deadly Combat those around the author get rare mentions, they are simply faceless and nameless, frankly you don't care what happens to them.

Instead you get a rather dry overview of the combat as if written by a General using his memoirs and a map. I found myself skipping over paragraphs that appeared to be lifted out of a history book on German troop movements.

There are a few exceptions that describe close combat with tanks, but you will not get to hear about who the gun crew was, or how they dealt with combat on a personal level.

Maybe I am being harsh, but the difference between this book and others I have read is striking and as such I can not recommend it to those who prefer the style of The Forgotten Soldier.

*edited for spelling error
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on 20 January 2008
Rather than trying to sensationalise the story with gruesome details the book reads more like a novel. Biderman's style is interesting, it is very well written by a man of obvious intelligence & ability to convey the feel of any given situation. The book flows in such a way with the opening skirmishes on the Eastern front that the reader is drawn in as if reading faster & faster as the Wehrmacht steam headlong into the great expanse of Russia. Infact it is a sign of Biderman's intelligence & miliatary understanding that even these swift victories worry Biderman long before they finally come to a grinding halt in the trenches of the Crimea.
An interesting style of the book is that as the Wehrmacht becomes bogged down & then ultimately turns to defence, the pace of the book changes so reflecting this change in the campaign & the soldiers lives.
Eventually the pace becomes frantic & quite broken reflecting the headlong retreat the soldiers are thrust into. This expertly reflects the fact that German soldiers were never trained in defence & you really can feel how the soldiers start to improvise & slowly learn by experience how to successfully defend against overwhelming odds. It is a testament to these soldiers that they hold out for so long with their backs against the sea. Infact the Russians cannot believe how few soldiers they have been fighting against.
A highly recommended, intelligent & thought provoking book. It would be a very good introduction to for anybody who had never actually read a German soldiers memoirs. It gives a very clear & precise snapshot of exactly how the Heer operated from the Infantryman on the front, through the artillery, supply lines & to the HQ. It does this without being a chore but rather as a fascinating insight into a well oiled war machine.
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on 20 January 2015
This isn't my usual type of WW2 reading, but it's such an excellent book that I believe no-one should miss reading it. The usual personal accounts I read are those of Generals in order to get a wider view of strategy and the broader sweep of campaigns. I read Lt. Bidermann's account about four years ago, somewhat reluctantly starting it as I remember. The memory of this honest soldier has stayed with me since because of his understated and modest account of battlefield conditions.

Even if you are not a WW2 buff, you will (I believe) benefit from reading this account of a soldier, promoted through the ranks to junior Officer in an ordinary Regiment, no Leibstandarte or Grossdeutschland etc fame. A story of duty and loyalty, of quiet heroism, under horrific conditions related without grandiosity, simply to set the record straight.
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on 17 February 2014
Of the 19 Million soldiers who fought on the side of the Axis in WW2, 17 Million of them fought on the Eastern Front against the Russians. Western Europe, I believe, was a side-show in comparison. When Hitler decided to invade the USSR, although he might have forced Stalin to a negotiated surrender if opperation Barbarossa hadn't begun later than originally planned, I think that the final outcome was inevitable. I believe Andrew Roberts was correct in his analysis that Germany could not have won WW2 because Germany was lead by the Nazis. I also believe that, as Max Hastings wrote, the German soldier was the best soldier of the war. Why? He had no choice; he had to be. This book explains why in my view. It gives a very good account of how the German Army bled itself dry against the ever increasing strength of the Soviet Forces, who had the resources to be able to absorb the massive casualties inflicted on it by the German army.
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on 26 January 2014
A really good book about one man's experiences on the Eastern Front. It must have been very difficult for everyone involved
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